Academic journal article Journal of American Folklore

The Return: Intertextuality of the Reminiscing of Karelian Evacuees in Finland

Academic journal article Journal of American Folklore

The Return: Intertextuality of the Reminiscing of Karelian Evacuees in Finland

Article excerpt

in this article, i examine the intertextuality of reminiscence writings of Karelian evacuees who experienced forced displacement within their own country. These reminiscences were written by elderly persons evacuated from Karelia as children and produced in the context of a thematic collection campaign organized by the Finnish Karelian League in collaboration with the Finnish Literature Society's Folklore Archive in 2004. The reminiscences of Karelian evacuees deal with questions of place and belonging; they are about home, losing home, and returning home. The main topics of these writings concern the two evacuation journeys from the ceded Karelia to Finland, which writers experienced during the Second World War. In addition to memories of childhood evacuation journeys, these writings include descriptions of brief visits back to Russian Karelia following the collapse of the Soviet Union decades after the evacuations. In this article, I primarily concentrate my discussion on the topic of returning to the place of the childhood home decades later.

Despite a broad range of research connecting migration and diaspora,1 the linguistic and poetic dimensions of migrant narratives have not yet gained enough analytical attention (see BenEzer 2004:30). In this article, I offer a complementary perspective on migration and diaspora by turning the focus on the intertextual dimensions of diasporic reminiscing. I ask what kinds of poetic and narrative conventions illustrate stories of home written by Karelian evacuees. I pay special attention to how Karelian evacuees apply characteristics of idyllic, nostalgic, and documentary representation in their reminiscence writings. These specific generic frameworks express values relating to the time or setting that they describe, which explains why they are especially interesting in terms of reminiscences of migration or significant historical events. I suggest that these intertextual references are employed to create bridges for the gap between times and places in the past and the present, between childhood and the moment of writing. Furthermore, the writers utilize intertextual references to implicitly express controversial, ideological, or emotional views of the past and its relationship with the present. I also argue that analysis of the intertextuality of reminiscing enriches the methodological corpus of migration and diaspora studies as well as the research of different forms of life writing and oral history testimonies. Intertextual analysis has the potential to open new ways of understanding dimensions of human expression that are absent on the linguistic or thematic level of utterance but take place in a sociohistorical context between and across texts and genres. Thus, intertextual relations that also constitute genre should be recognized in order to penetrate the complexity of meanings included in reminiscence writings (see Briggs and Bauman 1992:132). I argue that such recognition advances understanding of the cultural competence of the writers as well as the discursive and textual contexts in which they and their writings belong. In addition, I analyze the relationship between written dialect and standard language use; in the case of the example I provide here, this reflects the dynamic cooperation of the above-mentioned generic frameworks in actions that are typical of the reminiscence writings of Karelian evacuees. The use of dialect is a characteristic poetic quality of evacuation journey writings in which negotiations of time as well as place, group, identity, and agency intertwine.

I present my argument by focusing my analysis on one particular narrative written by a man born in Karelia in 1930. The analysis concentrates on the description of a visit to Karelia decades after the evacuations. It reflects my research on the poetics of reminiscence writings based on a thematic collection of 182 such writings. My study analyzes two basic dimensions of narrative: the temporality of reminiscence writings and the position of the author in relation to the time periods of the narrated past and the present time of writing (e. …

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